Multishoring of IT support, maintenance and development services for HL Display – case study

Entrusting the technical support, maintenance, and development of its IT systems to Multishoring.info enabled the HL Display Group, Europe’s leading merchandising company, to significantly lower its IT support expenses while achieving a higher standard of service. Another essential benefit gained by HL Display’s IT Department through the outsourcing of IT support and development to Multishoring.info was the improved control over its IT environment and, in particular, over the company’s main IT system – Jeeves ERP. Now it can be adjusted to the needs of the company faster and more accurately.

Initial situation
HL Display is a leading international supplier of products and solutions for in-store communication and merchandising to the food and non-food retail sectors. The company is also a leading supplier of products and solutions to brand manufacturers for merchandising on the shelf and in other parts of the store. HL Display operates in 48 markets in Western and Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Asia. In 36 of these markets it has its own subsidiaries, while the other 12 are served by selected distributors. HL Display was founded in 1954. It has a turnover of approximately EUR 180m (2011) and employs around 1100 staff. The company was first listed on the Stockholm Stock Exchange in 1993. Following the takeover of the principal owner Ratos the shares were delisted on 17 September 2010.

Prior to 2012 HL Display worked with various IT companies from Sweden, which provided technical support services for the software used in the company. Such dispersed IT support was difficult to control and cost-ineffective. This issue was particularly apparent in the case of the main IT system in HL Display – Jeeves ERP.

“Our Jeeves ERP has been repeatedly modified so as to adjust it to the current needs of our company. The scale of these changes means that software development services and technical support associated with this system have become a very significant item in the IT budget. It became clear to us that it would be more convenient and cost-effective for us if the Jeeves ERP technical support and development were taken over by our own IT Department” – says Fredrick Birkhammar, IT Director at HL Display.

For those reasons HL Display decided to start a project aimed at taking over the technical support of the Jeeves ERP system to a wider extent. In the course of its implementation, however, problems were encountered, associated with coordinating the activities of HL Display’s IT Department and external suppliers. This caused delays in delivering the required functionality and increased the pressure on the IT Department from the company’s management to complete the project faster. This is when the idea emerged of hiring an additional external partner to help with the coordination of the project. HL Display was looking for a large and stable IT provider with extensive experience in nearshoring projects. The company also expected from its future partner a wide range of competences, an ability to create dedicated project teams that understand business and technology and are able to learn new systems if required. All of these requirements were fulfilled to the greatest extent by Multishoring.info.

The trial task
Following discussions and consultations between Multishoring.info and HL Display at the stage preceding the conclusion of the agreement, the companies agreed that the best solution to HL Display’s current problems would be introducing an additional person to the project – a consultant from Multishoring.info with vast experience in coordinating projects in the Agile methodology. This task was also treated as a trial supposed to enable HL Display to assess the quality of services provided by Multishoring.info.

The coordinator was selected after a thorough analysis of a candidate’s CV presented by Multishoring.info and a personal interview. During the interview the project manager and Deputy Director of IT Department at HL Display presented the candidate with specific problems that arose during their project and asked for solutions. He managed to make a very good impression and was subsequently hired as a consultant. His main task was to improve the project management, in particular to define the processes, principles of communication and cooperation in the Agile methodology, using the Scrum Ontime tool. The entire project with the Multishoring.info’s consultant lasted for about a month. During this time he spent a week in the HL Display Group’s IT Department, located in Poland, and a week at its headquarters in Sweden. For two weeks he worked remotely.

“We had already tried to implement our project using the Agile methodology, but due to the lack of applicable experience we had some problems with that. It was only with the help of the coordinator from Multishoring.info that we were able to achieve its rapid completion. In view of our positive experience with the implementation of this project we decided to entrust Multishoring.info with support, maintenance and development of all our IT systems. We were sure that putting our IT systems support, maintenance and development in the hands of one trustworthy partner, based on the cost-effective and convenient nearshoring model, would enable us to optimise our IT expenses, while maintaining a high standard of service” – says Fredrick Birkhammar, IT Director at HL Display.

Taking over technical support, maintenance and development of all IT systems
After the trial period the timeline and scope were defined for the process of taking over technical support, maintenance and development of HL Display’s IT systems by Multishoring.info. It was decided that the IT support services were to be provided on all working days in France, Poland, Sweden, UK, between 8 AM and 5 PM, by a dedicated team of consultants. The team was divided into two parts. The first one – made up of two specialists – was assigned to assist in the work of the HL Display’s IT Department, in the area of development of the Jeeves ERP system. The consultants forming that team were selected by way of internal recruitment at Multishoring.info – among employees from the company’s branches located near the HL Display’s IT Department headquarters. This was necessary as the consultants were supposed to work every day in the HL Display’s IT Department and to report directly to the project manager responsible for the development and maintenance of Jeeves. After four months of collaboration four additional consultants were included in the team.

The second part of the team – made up of three specialists – was assigned tasks related to the provision of technical support and maintenance for IT systems that were to be taken over in the first phase of cooperation. The team of HL Display consultants was supplemented by the coordinator, the one who had already worked for HL Display during the trial period of cooperation. His function – as before – was to coordinate the work of the team seconded to HL Display, and, if necessary, to replace the project manager responsible for the development and maintenance of Jeeves ERP.

“During the first stage of cooperation – lasting four months – Multishoring.info took over the support, maintenance and development of three IT systems at HL Display. Those were: the SQL Server-based Data Warehouse with QlikView Business intelligence for reporting on the sales and production process and for the presentation of information from the data warehouse. We also provided technical support during the process of moving all of HL Display’s national websites to one common platform, which is at the moment the Web and E-commerce EPiServer, integrated with Jeeves ERP” – says Andrzej Biesiekirski, CEO at Multishoring.info.

In the near future there are plans to take over the support and the development of three further systems – the inRiver PIM (Product Information Management) application used for managing and presenting product catalogues, the Advice of Dispatch software for handling products shipping, the Pallet Label application for printing product labels and existing integration processes implemented in MS BizTalk.

The completion of all works related to the implementation of the first stage of cooperation is planned for the first months of 2013. Later in 2013 Multishoring.info is to take over support, maintenance and development of other IT systems used at HL Display. The level of IT service provided by Multishoring.info will be described in the SLA agreement. It will define such details of IT support as maximum response time for a new system failure notification, maximum time for resolving the problem, reporting rules for each stage of the IT support in the Remedy system.

“Looking at our cooperation with Multishoring.info from almost an annual perspective, I would like to emphasize their exceptional conduct when something went wrong. During our cooperation there were some problems, which probably was inevitable due to the scale of the project. However, all emerging problems were openly communicated to us. It was accompanied by recovery plans to improve the solutions and processes which were next successfully implemented in life. I think the approach that presents Multishoring.info in emergency situations is extremely valuable” – says Fredrick Birkhammar, IT Director at HL Display.

Tools and procedures
During the development of Jeeves ERP, OnTime Scrum is used for project management and bug tracking. The system is available online via a secure login page. Using it Multishoring.info can easily manage product backlogs, organise products, versions and sprints, automate processes with workflows, ensure secure operation by assigning user roles and perform many more actions.

To carry out the tasks associated with the provision of IT support and maintenance for HL Display, Multishoring.info uses the BMC Remedy Action Request System that enables smooth provision of technical support services based on the ITIL methodology. Should any failure or interruption to an IT service or system occur, the incident is reported to HL Display’s Service Desk. It is evaluated there and next assigned in the BMC Remedy to appropriate IT support specialists. If the failure affects one of the systems already taken over by Multishoring.info, the assignment goes to the Multishoring.info’s team. They either immediately solve the problem or contact the person who reported the problem for more information. After solving the problem, Multishoring.info’s consultants set the status of the problem to “solved” and the person who reported the problem closes it in the BMC Remedy system. All these ITIL-based procedures are currently implemented and constantly improved.

The efficient execution of the support, maintenance and development tasks is also supported by constant communication ensured by the Google+ for business tool. It enables conference calls and video-conferencing, as well as the exchange of documents. The Google+ platform is often used by some of the participants of periodic meetings which are to guarantee regular communication between HL Display and Multishoring.info. They include:

  • a weekly project meeting which brings together the project manager and department heads on the side of HL Display and the coordinator on the part of Multishoring.info. The meeting is to determine the status of the project and tasks to perform in the next week;
  • a bi-weekly meeting in the course of which the progress is presented to representatives of the company;
  • a bi-weekly meeting of the project manager and the coordinator, during which requirements and details are determined as regards the actions planned for the next period;
  • a bi-weekly “code review” meeting in which the whole IT support and development team participates.

All of these meetings are usually conducted on a mixed basis – some of the participants are physically present at the meeting while some take part in it remotely.

Benefits

Cost-effective IT support and maintenance services
One of the key gains achieved by HL Display owing to its cooperation with Multishoring.info has been a significant reduction of the cost of IT support, maintenance and development. Various HL Display’s IT systems used to be supported by many different IT partners from Sweden. The concentration of IT support in one company, on a cost-effective multishoring basis, has enabled the client to optimise its IT spending significantly.

Higher standard of IT support services
Cooperation with Multishoring.info not only has provided HL Display with savings but also with technical support services of a higher quality. This is mainly due to enhanced communication, better process definition and cooperation principles, which led to an overall improvement in the quality of IT support. Previously – because of the multitude of partners – this was impossible to achieve.

Faster adjustment of Jeeves ERP to current needs
Another essential advantage gained by HL Display from its cooperation with Multishoring.info has been the ability to adjust its main IT system – Jeeves ERP – faster and more accurately to the current needs of the company. Multishoring.info helped to coordinate the efficient take-over of the IT support and development of Jeeves ERP from external suppliers and subsequently provided qualified staff making up half of the team responsible at present for the technical support of the system and its development. The consultants work in the headquarters of HL Display’s IT Department, which greatly facilitates the work and the management of the whole team.

More control over IT environment
The concentration of IT support in the hands of one partner means that HL Display has now more control over its own IT environment. The execution of the tasks associated with the provision of technical support, maintenance and development has also become easier and more predictable with the new procedures and tools that have been implemented in HL Display in cooperation with Multishoring.info.